Read Hebrews 12
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God Disciplines His Children
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Warning and Encouragement
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]
Recently I had an experience with my prayer life in that I was chastened by God about how I pray.
I have a list of people that I go through each night and pray for prior to falling asleep…though there are some nights that I fall asleep and wake up when my arms fall asleep too from leaning on them with my head! I figure God knows how tired I am, so I just start over with my prayer and then finish up and go to sleep for real. Sometimes we are tired and unable to focus or even comprehend all that we have to say to God.
Anyhow, one night I was prayer as usual, and when I got down to a certain person on my list..the Holy Spirit really pushed me to prayer intensely for this person. I began to seriously pour out my heart about this person and how much I would like to see them drawn toward God and see them become a much more happy person in the way a person who truly knows that he/she is loved by God will be happy….contentment and peace.
The next day, I was doing my daily tasks and the Lord whispered to me, “Do you know that this person doesn’t have anyone in their life to show them the Love of Christ?” “There is no person who loves them without expecting something in return….without wanting them to turn around and suit their needs, instead of just loving them as they are now.” I suddenly realized that it was true. This person whom we all love, but have not been loving toward because of their decisions in life. I realized that I was guilty of being judgmental and condemning toward that person.
I suddenly realized that there was another guilt that I had…in my prayers I had been praying for that person to be “guide, guard and protected”, but had not been praying with any real expectation beyond preservation of their life. I had been praying without expectation of any change in their life whatsoever. This is a terrible thing to realize.
I had been looking down on that person as someone whom God could not do anything to help them. Unconsciously, my prayers were tainted by my worldly opinion of the person. So, of course, the prayer would have very little if any power in that person’s life.
I felt quite devastated to realize that, although Jesus gave his Disciples the authority over things in earth and in heaven as far as casting out….I had never actually accepted that authority….the authority of change through prayer.
I mean, in my own life, and whenever someone would ask me to pray about something I did. I was really comfortable about that…I always through the years…have prayed that God would help me with this or that and then started looking for the help to happen and watching for how God would help me to deal with whatever issue I needed help with.
Unfortunately, in this particular person’s life I had no such expectation, so did not look. This meant that I was not praying with expectation of an answer. I was unconsciously saying, “God I don’t expect much because their life is really a mess!” Even though, I have met many people whose testimony about their lives told me that their life had really been a mess also, but God helped them to do something about it.
Yet, here I was looking at this person with the condemning eyes of the world, instead of the loving eyes of Christ. There is no where in the Bible which would uphold what I was doing.
Yes, there are people who chose to turn their backs on God, and yes they get condemned for it. The thing is, we, humans, have no way of telling who these people are. We do not know what God knows. We can only see that the person appears to be making unGodly choices with their life, we cannot know for sure, if they will continue to make those kinds of choices, or if something will happen to turn their heart toward God, and make them a huge minister for others around them.
God looks at us with, “where there is life…there is hope, I am a God of the living, not the dead”…attitude. “I love you, and I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you…” God is a good God always!
Satan looks at us with, “you are too bad to be saved, just rot in your guilt and sin…don’t expect anything else”
Our Pastor, in his sermons over the past 3 weeks, has been being used by God to help bring me to this knowledge of my own sin.
The thing is that the second I realized that I had been praying while looking down on someone, praying without expectation, I felt miserable, and really apologized to God for it, and promised never to pray in that manner again. The second I made the realization and the apology…I felt this magnificent feeling of power run through my body from toes to head..rising up through me…it felt like a huge release of power from the Holy Spirit in a big giant “atta girl! I am glad that you realize this! Now we can accomplish things with your prayers that we have never been able to accomplish before!”
Incidentally, the person lives over 600 miles from me, so at first I was not sure what I could do other than pray to have someone come into their life who can show them the love of Christ…but I realized that I could send them a care package and a card occasionally to give them a small bit of the love of Christ..kind of hoping to chip away at the pain and ice and anger in the person’s heart that they have received from being constantly looked down upon and condemned. It is not much, but I am hoping that it is a small start. It should improve my relationship with them also over time. I wrote to them and confessed my sin to them. Hopefully, they will as God does, forgive me my faults.
I am now praying with expectation every night, and usually at least some during the day…soon it will be without ceasing. I have a picture in my head of them living a wonderful life of joy….I am praying with expectation that this picture will become a fact!
Those whom God loves, God chastens….the thing is that the chastening is not the chastening of the world…the love in this chastening was evident immediately and it drove out the guilt. It was like God telling me, “I am revealing this to you so that you can draw closer to me…not so that you can be brought down by your guilt…it is to refine you into the person I created you to be. I love you. Don’t be upset, rejoice in the fact that I love you enough to tell you when you are doing the wrong thing.”
God is specific when he tells you what you are doing wrong, and he is gentle.
Satan is vague and uses guilt continually to remove your joy.
That is how you can tell them apart when you are not sure of what is going on.
Read Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3 New International Version (NIV)
Wisdom Bestows Well-Being
3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.[b]
13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.
32 For the Lord detests the perverse
but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honor,
but fools get only shame.